Residential complexes with eight or more units are required to have bike parking because they’re required to have parking. The zoning code requires a ratio of 1 bike parking space to 2 car parking spaces (the quantity of car parking spaces it needs is a determination the Department of Housing and Economic Development makes).

A Grid Chicago reader recently sent me some photos of the bike parking inside the parking garage at the 900 S. Clark AMLI South Loop Apartments (see map). I was not surprised by what they showed based on what I’ve seen at other residential complexes in Chicago.

The photo above shows a double-decker bike rack with height alternating bike parking slots. This means that bikes can theoretically be spaced closer together because one bike’s handlebars won’t interfere with the bikes on either side of it. The bike rack has 10 slots. There are at least 16 bikes in the photo (it’s hard to count them from just the picture) and it seems only 5 are actually in slots.

The Chicago zoning code that applies to this situation is section 17-10-0207-C. As the complex is providing over 200 car parking spaces in this garage (I counted them in Google Earth), the AMLI South Loops Apartments must be providing 50 bike parking spaces (17-10-0301-B says max 50). Granted, the remaining 40 spaces could be inside the apartment tower, I highly doubt it. I don’t have enough information about this location to know if zoning code was not correctly or fairly applied.

Aside from obviously not having enough bike parking spaces, here’s what else isn’t cool about this bike parking installation:

  • The rack design offers no locking points. I believe this rack was intended to hold bikes at a retail store.
  • It’s outside, so bikes are getting wet
  • It’s over 200 feet away from any residential unit
  • It’s in a far corner of the parking garage (but not the furthest from the garage entrance)
  • An upper level rack design is not easy to use: one must first lift their bike to the second level, and then awkwardly reach around the frame and wheels to lock it.

I’ve created the Simple Bike Parking website as a resource and tool for anyone who wants to install bike parking. It discusses the three rules I’ve developed over the 4+ years I’ve consulted on bike parking in Chicago. It’s simple to have good, useful, and desirable bike parking if it’s:

  • Close to the entrance where people commonly enter and exit
  • Of the right design (nothing hard to use, please)
  • Placed at least 36 inches away from anything else, on all sides

There are a lot of abandoned bikes on the streets of Chicago, but I’m sure there are plenty more in residential buildings. I’m blaming difficult to reach and hard to secure bikes for this.

Updated 1145h to correct the maximum number of bike parking spaces a developer must provide, based on a different reading of the zoning code prompted by a reader. Thanks, Erik.